Who is this person standing before me?

When James stepped onto the train, he wasn’t thinking too much about where he would sit. Preoccupied with whatever it was that he was listening to on his phone, he may have been unaware that he had sat down opposite the only other person in the carriage.

The stranger however, was well aware of James, and watched as he put his bag on the seat, expecting maybe to acknowledge his presence with even a nod of the head. But their eyes failed to meet.

The long journey home after work is often tiring, and a time of solitude is often welcome. On this occasion however, the stranger would have been happy to chat.

As the train rolled on and his destination drew nearer, he was well aware that the mystery man listening to music, was someone he was not going to meet.

In today’s uncertain society, it’s understandable why anyone might not be in a hurry to make conversation with a stranger, especially in a lonely train carriage.

But it’s also very sad.

In the book of Genesis, we learn that humanity was created in the image of God. What a mind-blowing concept that is!

To think that the God of the universe, who can make the DNA with its twenty-three chromosomes by merely thinking it into existence, and billions of galaxies without even having to stand up from His throne, made us like Himself!

Clearly, we don’t possess all of His power, knowledge and attributes. But theologians tend to agree, that being made in His image means we have many similar characteristics. Enough to make relationship not only possible and enjoyable but one in which love for each other can thrive.

In that sense, it would be more appropriate to say, we are like Him, rather than that He is like us.

David Benner in his book, “The Gift of Being Yourself”, says…

“Human beings exist because of God’s desire for companionship. We are the fruit of God’s love, reaching out towards creatures who share enough similarity that relationship is possible.”

Just imagine … God wanting to make creatures which He can have as friends. It’s only logical that if we are going to be genuine friends, we have to enjoy some similarities of character, values and mental aptitude.

Despite our similarities, He is still God and we are the beings that He has created.  Recognising our differences suggests that, regardless of our likenesses, there are zillions of things about God, that we will not only never understand, but not even know about.  We will be learning about Him, forever.

But here’s the strange bit.

Benner enlightens us further by likening knowing God, and ourselves, to a circle.

If we want to get to know God, we need to get to know ourselves. And if we want to learn about ourselves, we need to get to know God.

If we have many similarities to God, and we are all like Him, that suggests to me that every human being has many things about them I simply don’t know about also. I have to assume then, that every person has within them, many aspects of God that I am privileged to discover.

What an honour it is then, when coming into the presence of someone, to have the opportunity to learn something of the many things that are unique to them. Things that will bear the resemblance of the One who gave them.

Makes me think twice about rabbiting on about myself when I have so much to learn about you.

Why would anybody want to fiddle with their phone, when seated in front of someone with whom they could be talking… someone who has the characteristics of God?

Being honest with our Self-View

Have you ever owned a car or lived in a house where you liked absolutely every single thing about it?  It’s hard to imagine.

Most of us would manage to find at least one thing if not two or three, that we wouldn’t have included in the design if we had been making it.

My present car probably meets that criteria. I really like it, well, at least nearly all of it. I get rather frustrated that some of the numbers on the instrument panel are a bit hard to read. Surely, they could have made them even a bit larger.

So, do I absolutely hate the car? Am I going to get rid of it?

Not likely. Simply because the good far outweighs the bad. Considering there is so much to like about it, it would be horribly uneconomical to change it for something just because some numbers are a little smaller than I’d have preferred.

Strange thing. But I’ve known many people who find no purpose in living because there is something about their lives they don’t like.

Somehow, the thing they don’t like becomes so big in their minds that all the good things about their lives get swallowed up like a cosmic black hole. Eventually, they find it hard to like even a single thing about themselves.

This is very sad because, by learning to explore and examine the whole of our lives, we are better able to re-define those things that we are less happy about and put them into perspective.

Over the years I have asked many hundreds of people to tell me five things they like about themselves. You can feel the uneasy squirming in the room. The audible groans confirm the unpleasantness of the task.

They ‘um’ and ‘argh’, trying to think of things, taking as long as possible, hoping I’ll ask an easier question instead. Reaffirming that I only want five, seldom seems to lessen the apparent agony of the task.

Why is it so hard to think of only five things we like about what and who we are?

There’s a very good reason.

When we focus on the less desirable aspects of our lives, the less favourably we see the best things about ourselves.  If we continue to dwell on them, eventually, we only see the things in us that we don’t like.

From there, it’s only a short step to becoming convinced that there is nothing good in us.  Life tends to be downhill from here on.

To think that all of this is totally unnecessary.

As a species, humanity has been created in the image of God. Consequently, He has gifted us with a vast array of attributes, skills, qualities, key-capacities and talents, that sets us far apart and above every other created species on earth.

All of these attributes enable us to pursue endless possibilities that allow us to grow, learn, enjoy, experience and design, produce gain and improvement for ourselves, the community and world we live in.

But what about the bits we don’t like?

Nobody likes having aspects of ourselves that we don’t like.  But there’s an easy way to turn things around.  It’s just a matter of rewriting our dislikes and turning them into statements of encouragement.

Do you want to know how to do it?

Let me introduce factious character, James.

James sees himself as a social misfit.  He has a belief that says, “I’m hopeless with talking to people”.  Needless to say, James doesn’t think much of himself overall, because his belief about his communication skills dominates his self-view. This substantially affects the way he interacts with others.

However, if James rewrites this belief into a more realistic statement, life will change dramatically for him. He can easily do it in just three steps.

  1. Get rid of pejorative or put-down type words.
  2. Rewrite the belief more accurately and specifically to reflect the truth.
  3. Include a balanced complimentary view.

In James’s case, he would do the following:

  1. Eliminate the derogatory description, ‘hopeless’. It’s not true. Nobody is hopeless.
  2. Rewrite a more accurate phrase, something like this… “Starting a conversation with strangers is not my best skill”.   This is much more truthful and realistic.
  3. Then add a corresponding truth. Something like this..   “but I can easily talk about things I’m familiar with.”

So James’ new belief sounds like this…

James: “Starting a conversation with strangers is not my best skill, but I love to talk about things I’m familiar with”.

For James, this is a far more accurate way of describing one aspect of himself and puts what he’s not, in perspective against what he really is. Rewriting our self-view, is not hard.

And the best thing about doing it is, that we start to see more clearly all the good things about who we are.

Suddenly, life is worth going on with.

(Incidentally. There are so many things I like about my car, I can’t even remember what it was I didn’t like about the dashboard.)


Life Really Matters


First impressions can be misleading

A well-known Roman Philosopher had divorced his wife, and the talk around town was divided.

One day, he was standing in the market when he overheard a conversation going on behind him.  “Wasn’t she beautiful? Wasn’t she chaste?”

He turned around, took of his shoe and said, “Look at my sandal. Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it well made? But who amongst you can tell me where it pinches me?”

I often think of that reply and how easy it is for all of us to quickly make judgements based on what we see and think we know.

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